Artist of the Month: Michelle Sasscer, Babus Toys

IMG_8997The following post is by Michelle Sasscer, owner of Babus Toys, Herban Lifestyle’s April 2014 Artist of the Month.

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Women have traditionally learned their crafts from their mothers and other family elders, and Michelle Sasscer is no exception – her mother taught her how to knit, albeit over the phone, 3,000 miles away, while Michelle was laid up with a broken leg in a 3rd floor flat in San Francisco.  It was very slow going at first, and she timidly moved from basic stitch swatches to washcloths to eventually scarves.  After a multi-year hiatus, she returned to the craft in earnest in 2011, relishing the opportunity to nestle into an easy chair with gorgeous yarns and new patterns.

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But it wasn’t until 2006 that she learned about felting, and when she finally started to experiment with the technique, she was immediately, completely hooked.  Something about the smooth, fuzzy, warm wool texture and apparent magic of all of those stitches melding into one thick solid material, was irresistible.  And not coincidentally, this all came about while she was making toys and decorations for her newborn son, Nicholas (who was nicknamed “The Babus”, in utero, just like his daddy had been).  The moment she saw Nicky’s reaction to his first set of felted wool teething rings, Babus Toys was born, at least in her mind.  Many years later, Michelle has created toys and treasures for babies as well as children of all ages.  Using choice, sustainably produced yarns from Michigan and Peru, as well as an organic line from Australia/US, Michelle makes every piece by her own design and with her own hands, from that original Gnot teething ring to nesting finger puppet sets, to mermaid dolls, even ornaments (once she even made a bride and groom squid couple as a wedding cake topper). Oh, and her mom Ruth is still helping her out, doing yeoman’s work as a supplemental knitter.  Michelle works out of her home in downtown Silver Spring, MD.

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Babus Toys can also be found in Michelle’s Etsy store, on Facebook, and at Eastern Market in Washington DC.logo

How to Make Organic Bunny Treats

I recently discovered a new blog, Winding Road Farm, written by a woman who, along with her fiancée, is working to build a 10-acre farm in Georgia. She posted an article on the care and feeding of bunnies, along with a recipe for bunny food. This reminded me of some homemade bunny treats I purchased at the BUST Holiday Craftacular back in December. Amy Sedaris was there autographing her latest crafty book, and selling people’s homemade crafts. When I mentioned that I had a rabbit (Sedaris is a big rabbit fan), she pointed out a little bag of of “Elliot’s Cilantro Treats,” which she highly recommended.

Even though my rabbit adores these snacks, I still have quite a few left (because they are treats, you can only give one or two to your rabbit per day). But I wanted to try making my own version, just for the fun of it. While doing an internet search on homemade rabbit treats, I came across a recipe posted on Live Journal by Katie, who apparently is the very same person who made the snacks I bought (Katie, it turns out, is also the author of the Amy Sedaris Rocks website).

In the intro to her recipe, Katie explains “It’s a bit time-consuming and makes a big mess, but it’s worth it because it’s so much healthier than treats sold in stores…” I’ve developed a short-cut version that is pretty quick and not very messy. I may try them again in the future with cilantro or parsley.

Here’s what I used:

* 1 cup organic rolled oats, finely ground
* 1/2 cup organic dried alfalfa powder (I bought this from Mountain Rose Herbs)
* 4 ounce jar of baby food organic carrots
* 4 ounce jar of baby food organic banana (I used a banana-apple blend)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Grind the oats in a coffee or spice grinder to make a powder. Place the powdered oats in a bowl, then stir in the alfalfa, carrots and bananas until well-blended. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the dry ingredients to absorb the liquid from the wet ingredients.

The dough should be firm enough to shape into a ball. It looks like something a dung beetle would live in.

Roll the mixture into a ball, then place it between 2 sheets of wax paper. With a rolling pin or large bottle, roll it out to about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick.

Cut out small circles (I used a 1/2″ diameter circle cutter) and place on the lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes (don’t let them get too brown), then turn off the heat and let them sit in the warm oven for at least an hour to allow them to thoroughly dry. (Katie points out that this is a very important step that prevents the treats from growing mold).

NOTE: Since these are treats, please limit them to 1 or 2 per day for your rabbit.

my rabbit is a bit camera shy

but it didn't take her long to get over her self-consciousness and dig into her treat